Audi Q3 review
The Audi Q3 is the baby off-roader of the Q family, and its rivals include the BMW X1 and WW Tiguan
Following the huge sales success of compact SUVs like the BMW X1, Range Rover Evoque and Volkswagen Tiguan, came the Audi Q3. It’s essentially a smaller version of the Q5 and it combines compact dimensions and luxurious interior quality with a range of capable engines and the option of quattro four-wheel drive. Entry-level front-wheel-drive models are perfect for buyers who want low running costs, rather than ultimate off-road ability, though. There are just two trims - the standard SE or sporty S line - but every Q3 comes with a generous amount of standard equipment. The production-ready RS Q3 was revealed at the Geneva Motor Show in March, and is set to go on sale later this year. When it does launch, it will be the first Audi SUV to wear the RS badge and will be powered by a 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with 306bhp for a 0-62mph time of 5.5 seconds.
Our choice: Q3 SE 2.0 TDI (177) quattro S tronic
The Q3 looks just like a scaled-down version of the Q5 and larger Q7. The overall design isn’t exciting and it’s far from revolutionary, but it is smart. The prominent grille, rounded roofline and trademark clamshell tailgate are all familiar Audi SUV styling cues, but the standard Q3 also gets wheelarches and side sills that contrast with the rest of the body colour, for a more rugged 4x4 look. Higher-spec cars get full body-colour treatment and a series of subtle, sporty tweaks. The interior is beautifully made, using very high quality materials that set it apart from its rivals, while the control and Audi’s MMI integrated entertainment system are all easy to use. There are just two trim levels to choose from, with entry-level SE models getting stylish 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, automatic lights and wipers, parking sensors, Bluetooth and a 6.5-inch screen that pops up manually from the dash - however, it’s worth noting that the distinctive LED daytime running lights are only standard on S line models. Those also come with 18-inch alloys, sports seats, Xenon lights, front fog lights and plenty of S line badging. The RS Q3 will get massive 19-inch alloys as standard (with 20-inch alloys available as an option), sports seats and RS badging, as well as an aggressive RS bodykit that will increase the length of the car by 25mm.
There’s a choice of two diesel engines and one petrol. The latter is a 208bhp 2.0-litre TFSI, which is smooth and torquey but is thirsty. As a result, we would recommend going for one of the diesel options – they account for the lion’s share of sales, and it’s easy to see why. The 138bhp 2.0-litre engine offers decent performance – although it is a bit noisy under load – but it’s the 174bhp model that delivers the best mix of running costs and punch. Although the Q3 isn’t as engaging to drive as the Ford Kuga, it is incredibly capable and surprisingly agile, while the quattro all-wheel drive ensures plenty of traction. The six-speed manual gearbox is precise but the twin-clutch S tronic gearbox is also excellent. We wouldn’t recommend going fro the S line models, though, as the larger wheels and firmer suspension is bad news for ride comfort. The top-of-the-range RS model will use the same 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine as the old RS3, albeit detuned to produce 306bhp and 420Nm of torque. It will come with 25mm lower sports suspension, as well as Audi Drive Select, which allows the driver to adjust the exhaust sound and throttle characteristics by selecting from auto, comfort or dynamic modes.
Audi is famed for the build quality of its cars, and the Q3 feels very well built. However, the manufacturer finished 15th out of 30 in the 2012 Driver Power survey, having dropped eight places in only 12 months. The biggest issue for owners seems to be value for money, with many criticising the higher than expected running costs, but there was still plenty of praise in the reliability category. The Q3 also comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty and three years' RAC breakdown cover, which should help keep bills to a minimum. A far star Euro NCAP crash test rating means it should prove just as impressive in the safety stakes. It received 94 and 85 per cent respectively for adult and child occupant protection, while a score of 86 per cent in the safety assist category is also impressive. Every Q3 comes with six airbags and electronic stability control as standard, as well as the option of a whole host of hi-tech safety kit. This includes everything from a Speed Limit Display, to Active Lane Assist, which helps to maintain the vehicle’s position in its lane. Further up the range, S line models feature Xenon headlamps as standard.
The Q3 is around 250mm shorter, 70mm narrower and 65mm lower than the Q5, which makes it closer in size to standard family hatchbacks like the VW Golf and Ford Focus. It offers slightly more passenger space than the X1 and has a slightly bigger boot, too, at 460 litres - that’s 40 litres more than its rival. Folding the rear seats creates a maximum capacity of 1,365 litres, although it is a shame that the split-folding rear bench doesn’t lie flat. Another disappointment is the big transmission tunnel, which leaves barely any space for the middle seat passenger’s feet – but then that’s also a problem in the BMW. One option that’s worth considering is the flat folding front passenger seat, which is especially useful if you need to carry longer or awkwardly shaped items.
The most efficient Q3 is the 2.0 TDI diesel with 138bhp. In front-wheel-drive and with a manual gearbox, it has a claimed fuel economy figure of 54.0mpg and CO2 emissions o 137g/km. However, opting for the security of four-wheel drive will push emissions up to 149g/km and reduce fuel economy by almost 10 per cent. The higher-powered diesel manages average mpg of 48.0 and emits 156g/km of CO2, as it comes with an S tronic gearbox that features a new ‘coast’ function when you add Audi Drive Select as an option. This system disengages drive when you lift off the throttle, in order to boost economy. The 2.0 TFSI petrol will cost considerably more to run, though, with official figures of 39.0mpg and 174g/km, which means it will cost a considerable amount to tax. The range-topping RS Q3 is said to achieve 32.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 206g/km, which is impressive considering the performance on offer – although it will be expensive, as it’s expected to cost around £11,000 more than the current Q3 2.0-litre TFSI S Line. List prices are generally reasonable, though. Plus thanks to strong residual values, the Q3 will hold onto more of its value than almost all of its rivals, too.